Yousafzai: Does Islam Even Give You a Right to Education?

Someone is missing from this picture. Because just when I was wondering if extremists could do anymore damage to Islam’s image, they committed yet another despicable act.

As if flogging the adulterers, executing the civilians, and selling the women were not enough, on Oct. 8, the Taliban attempted to assassinate a 14-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai. She was coming home from school in the battle-scarred valley of Swat, Pakistan, when Taliban shot her in the head and neck for her public advocacy for education. She is in critical condition.

It’s so heartening to see most media outlets applauding Malala’s courage. Yet, some commentators are using this cowardly act to attack my faith by casually suggesting: “Well, Islam does not give women the right to seek secular education.”

Excuse me? Why should we let a bunch of uneducated cowards and thugs be the press secretaries of Islam when the faith, much like Western secular values, is an illustrious enabler of women education? Please. Understand that we have a shared enemy here.

“Education is a fundamental right of women,” Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict, said. But 1,400 years ago, someone stated, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman.” Islam, therefore, presents education as a duty, not a mere right, for all.

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world,” said novelist Jane Austen. But 1,400 years ago, someone went a step further: “If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her a good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell-fire.”

The word “rabbi” means a teacher. Going by this definition, Islam gave women the rabbinical status centuries before any other faith. The first female rabbi, Regina Jonas, was ordained on Dec. 25, 1935 in Germany; an atypical practice, which even today is limited to the non-Orthodox sects of Judaism. But 1,400 years ago someone elevated, Ayesha, the daughter of the Prophet’s companion, to the status of a teacher and jurist.

Where the first Western University in Bologna, Italy, spontaneously emerged due to the efforts of male foreign students groups in 1088 A.D., it was the singular effort of a Muslim woman, Fatima-al-Fihri in 859 A.D., that helped found the University of Karueein in Fez, Morocco. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the University of Karueein is the oldest existing and continually operating university in the world. read more